The World Post – The Huffington Post
This article also appears in the August-September 2015 issue of All China Review.
By Akbar Ahmed
Photo: Kevin Frayer via Getty Images
BEIJING — “When China wakes, she will shake the world.” Napoleon’s famous comment on China has had China-watchers scratching their heads for two centuries as to what exactly he meant. Was it a warning to Europe of a potential threat from the East? Or was he reflecting upon the fascination of his time with Chinese culture and its silks and ceramics?
We may know the answer soon. China is awake and stirring. News of building projects and economic initiatives across the globe, including in its remote areas, are a testimony. So are some of the statistics. Take these at random: a Chinese billionaire is said to be created every week; China’s space program is aiming for Mars; China has over 20 million students in higher education and some quarter of a million students in the United States. It can even boast the ultimate sign of wasteful conspicuous consumption — Chinese students in the U.S., children of the elite, driving luxury cars.
Chinese films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, 2000, established the fact that the new China could produce technologically and artistically sophisticated films that could win awards in the West and yet still proudly celebrate its own cultural traditions.
The scale of China’s dramatic success has settled one great contemporary philosophic debate — the superiority of Capitalism over Marxism, which the Chinese say in private is now as dead as a dodo — while opening another. Which is better, an open democratic system, however noisy and unpredictable, or a highly centralized and controlled one? The U.S. and other democracies argue for the former; China is the living example of the latter.
To continue reading, click here.